How important is having a green kitchen?

Houzz PollsJune 27, 2012
There has been a big movement in the last several years towards using more earth-friendly, sustainable materials and reducing one's overall ecological footprint in the kitchen. That generally comes at an increased cost for green materials, so it does require some thought.

Is a green kitchen a priority for you?

photo credit: Fireclay Tile
Yes, green materials are my first priority.
Yes, for some items but within reason and budget.
No, it is not a priority for me.
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Emily Hurley
Just curious, if you voted for the second option "within reason and budget" what kinds of selections did you or do you plan to make?
1 Like    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 3:26PM
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Who wouldn't vote to build green if they know that the small upfront cost will be returned many fold within a decade? It's called investing in the future rather than getting sucked into immediate gratification. The future of the next generation as well as our own. To do otherwise is pretty selfish.
5 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 3:37PM
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I voted for the second option with energy efficient appliances and lighting in mind, but not necessarily "green" items like countertops and flooring.
4 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 5:06PM
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"Green" materials are preferable and desirable, but a modest budget (and I do mean seriously modest!) can't always afford those preferences. Some things are seriously preferential -- on-demand hot water system, efficient appliances give long-term $$ savings as well as green -- but flooring or countertops that are in that category are outside my budget. I'd love bamboo or cork floors; I have to settle for linoleum. I'd love a unique countertop (maybe not stone), but it will be Formica. That's what I can afford.
7 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 5:23PM
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Good design = green design

First, let's consider non-green materials:

The production of vinyl/PVC releases dioxins; these airborne chemicals are DIRECTLY linked to cancer. Sure it's cheap, but it's not as durable as the vinyl industry would like you to think. Brazilian hardwoods, even though they're not toxic, are endangered and the deforestation of Brazil is a tremendous tragedy that is permanently altering the climate on a global scale.

Why would you NOT want green materials in your kitchen? They don't have to be expensive. Some of the best ones are repurposed antiques - reclaimed wood flooring, antique islands, etc. Green design is about specifying the most appropriate durable materials that are used responsibly. If it isn't beautiful or purposeful and won't last, it isn't green design. And, in the space that I prepare meals for my family I need materials that I know won't contaminate my food!

If you want your kitchen to be greener on a budget, there are plenty of ways to do it:

1) Look for third party certifications for products that claim to be green (FSC for wood, Energy Star for appliances, WaterSense for faucets, etc.). Third party certifications are not from the manufacturer or the supplier and are much more objective. There's a lot of "green-washing" out there.

2) Repurpose or reuse existing materials, i.e. refinish your old cabinets or sand and re-stain your wood floors.

3) Boost your local economy and celebrate local materials. It's cheaper to use materials that are harvested or manufactured locally than to import that really expensive marble from Italy. Do you live in Utah? Consider specifying a copper backsplash mined in Utah.

Finally, do your research. I think you'll find that going green isn't as expensive as you think it is, especially when you consider the longer term cost to the environment. Hire a designer who specializes in green design (LEED Accredited Professional, for example) and kitchen design (National Kitchen and Bath Association). Yes, designers cost money. But wouldn't you rather have your kitchen done right the first time? Tearing it out and starting over is definitely NOT green!
6 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 5:53PM
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Green or not, if it's not attractive to me, I don't want it.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Within reason and budget. Rather than bamboo or cork, we went with real linoleum (Marmoleum) floor tiles that we can install ourselves. Pine boards from a nearby family-owned source for the counters instead of recycled materials. Vintage light fixtures from eBay. Home-built cabinets instead of manufactured, and one antique piece that will serve as a cabinet.
2 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Sometimes green means not replacing something that works perfectly well just because it is "dated." If I could sell it or trade it, then replacing it could make perfect sense. Putting a serviceable item in the landfill is hardly "green."
6 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 6:58PM
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I'm rather fortunate, as my personal taste would be rustic/modern. There are many alternatives to purchasing new man made finished items. If I can purchase vintage, or reclaimed...I'll do it! On the other side of the coin, I want a NEW energy efficient dishwasher...and I'm gonna buy it! I value the environment, but I also value my time. I hope that's a fair trade off? We're planning to build on a 5 acre lot, we're going to build on a small footprint and let the majority of the lot run wild, but maintain a very small manicured area by the river (no motorized water toys!). Ultimately I think it all comes down to balance, and not become a complete glutton when it comes to natural resources and the environment.
3 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:23PM
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Energy Star rated appliances, tankless water heater, solar power tied into the grid, reclaimed wood flooring, repurposed hutch incorporated into kitchen cabinetry, recycled glass/resin counter tops.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:30PM
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The greenest solution is to avoid ripping out the old just because it is not in current fashion.

Many times you can make a look work at a fraction of the cost. I have the original 1935 kitchen cabinets in my house. Hand crafted, built in place. Rather than rip them out and put new ones in, they have been painted.
2 Likes    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:44PM
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Often products that are marketed as green are in fact not. From hybrid cars, to flooring - goods are being marketed as "green" as so many consumers buy into this notion as it's the cause de jour. It's so prevalent that it has it's own term "Greenwashing." Please don't get sucked into the hype - do due diligence and don't take marketing claims at face value.
3 Likes    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 6:18AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
By all means, use safe products, re-cycle if you can and use Energy Star rated short use common sense. But, I'm sorry, the majority of all this "green" ideology is little more than marketing buzzwords feeding a cyclic trend. Whether or not a wood product is renewable, it's harvested by fossil fuel guzzling machines, it's processed by fuel produced electricity, it has a foot print. The same with all the man made synthetically materials.........they too have a foot print.

But hey, who am I to judge........if you feel better by going "green" go for it.....just don't look down your nose at me if I don't jump on the feel good bandwagon. I'll stick with common sense
    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 7:23AM
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Isabella Garrucho Fine Art
With so many options available going green can be both affordable and beautiful. It's a critical part of any design plan. Like anything else it's about being committed to finding items that fit into a clients budget and tastes.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Yes, definitely. Over a decade ago, we bought a house that was over 100 years old, it was my first, a fixer upper, and it hadn’t been touched for generations. If I had it to do over, and was doing it now, I’d pay closer attention to details and pay a little extra to keep my house as green as possible, after all, I breather in here all day long. We began renovation work even as we were moving in and haven’t stopped since; a few years later, an article I read made me aware that the spackle we’d used on the walls, and sanded when dry, was now made in China and used asbestos as a binder, so now we’ve both been exposed to that. At the time, I sold furniture for a living and believed I knew the value of having new upholstered furniture spayed with a common Teflon based coat to protect it from stains and make it easily cleaned. When we bought the house, we also bought a few new pieces for our “new” old house, like a new sofa, which of course I had sprayed with a Teflon coating. What I didn’t know then was how harmful the gases from those products are and that these odorless gasses would be given off, into the confined indoor air, for years to come. Teflon, and products like it, should never be sold without a warning label about the health risks and the truth about the gasses they emit. After years of reading magazines like This Old House, I understand much more now about the harmful and airborne chemical gasses that are emitted from so many of the home improvement products that most of us use. Worse still is that they take years to dissipate so you can’t just give them a few months before occupying the home; and they are in the drywall, paint, carpeting and insulation we’ve used. What had been a naturally green house because of the age of the previous products original to it, like sheetrock that predated these chemicals and real and wood versus plywood, which is a more stable material to work with but is made with glues, binders, and fire retardant chemicals that are toxic, has now become a toxic space. Because of what we didn’t know then, both my husband and I are developing health issues we shouldn’t encounter for years; although I have to include that we’re renovating the interior and living here while we do so, a nightmare in itself. In the last decade or so, a lot of information has become known about what is in the common home improvement products we use, and now there are far more choices that weren’t available just 10 years ago. There are many new products made from all sorts of innovative materials like old jeans, soy, and other materials that are not saturated with, or made with, chemical binders and glues that will be harmful to those inside that house for years to come. I’ve learned that products I assumed were made in the USA no longer are but that those products that are made in America must adhere to the standards that forbid ingredients like lead and asbestos. Those from China don’t follow the same standards and are not as closely monitored, even now, as they should be in order to be sold in the USA. So I’d advise you to read labels far more closely, do your homework, research the products you use and know that many common fibers in upholstery and carpets give off gasses that are toxic for years, if you have children this will affect their health and mental development. When I see a new house going up now, and know what is in almost everything it’s being built with, I cringe at the thought of small children being raised in such a toxic environment. If you are doing the work yourself, be an educated consumer, read the labels for explicit instructions because some of these products can kill you if exposed too long in an enclosed space. I had to call the poison control hot line one night after breathing a striping agent for too long. And don’t expect the big home improvement centers to know all the facts about all the products they sell, or their origins, how could they possibly? Nevertheless, ask that they carry these green products because that’s the only way they will become more readily available, and therefore ultimately less expensive. If you can buy American then this another very good reason to do so; American products are much easier to research so you can better understand exactly what poisons you can work around and which you would have to breath for years. If I had it to do over, I would leave a lot more of what was already there, features that had always been green because they were old. There were things we tore out for convenience, like the wood that was just wood, and beautiful old linoleum vintage I that could have just buffed, and was made of all natural ingredients. I would look harder for older salvage that was made before these chemicals became the rule versus the exception and maybe just paint until I could afford to do more with “greener” products. Thank God, our kids were grown! The chemicals that make something fire retardant are also very toxic, so just think about this: our kids sleep on pillow saturated in those toxins, by law, all night long; perhaps their pillows would be better off if they were just made from cotton or down. Same idea goes for our homes.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Mint Design
I have serious allergies so no formaldehyde, vocs, etc. Offgassing can take 50 years; anything older is now "green." There is a lot of hype around "green." Anyone who thinks a cfl or an electric car is green is grossly mistaken. There is mercury in every fluorescent bulb, nothing green about mercury; once enough of it works its way into the ground water we can no longer drink it, not can our livestock, and we cannot even safely use it to irrigate our crops. give me a of the most lethal elements out there, along with mercury. Electric car batteries are also incerdible dangerous to the mechanic; a number have blown up and killed people. These things are anti oil and gas but make no mistake about it, they are anything but green. I would love to see clean nat gas cars and power but because it is part of the oil and gas group there is organized resistance from those who call these dangerous elements green. I think we need to clean our air and water but using lethal elements and compounds is not the way to do it. What do we want seeping into our ground water and how many hazardous waste sites do we want our children and granchildren to inherit? At a minimum oil and gas are organic. The old glues were animal based not chemical based....often old is greener than new. Re use, recycle, repurpose, but do not be fooled by the word "green" or the people who want to pass laws that limit your choices to what they determine to be green or politically correct. If you hae ever designed anything in CA, you know what I mean already! Do your own research and caveat emptor.... :)
3 Likes    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:46AM
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tipp2swan, you bring up a very good point. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), found in many new construction products, take years to off-gas. What's worse is that the highest concentration of fumes is heavier than air and tends to hover below two feet - right where your toddlers and pets are spending the majority of their time.

I would MUCH rather pay the (marginal) up-front expense for a greener product than to pay for my family's premature medical and funeral costs because they were exposed to toxins in my cheaply renovated kitchen.

Most products, especially construction materials and finishes, sold in the United States are required to publicly provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). You can easily find these on the internet or from the manufacturer. They list the contents of the product, safe handling and usage instructions, as well as possible health hazards to the user.

Moral of the story: do your research, educate yourself, and select products that you can live with for life. Green design is common sense. Ignorance can kill you.
    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:46AM
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Chroma Design
Insulation that has formaldehyde, paints that gas off VOC's, toxins are found in carpet, construction adhesives and glue. Yes, even glues used to make your kitchen cabinets. Vinyl manufacturing releases dioxins. There are so many smart, green choices you can make for your own health and the well being of the planet.
Besides material choices, I always stress energy efficiency to my clients. This is more than energy star appliances and low flow fixtures, but also, proper insulation, efficient windows and doors and a tight building envelope with a high performance energy-recovery ventilator (fresh air exchanger.)
For me personally, the worst is the weed killers, fertilizers, and waste of water that people use in the foolish, vain persuit of the perfect lawn.

So, I'm nowhere near perfect in making the right, green choice every time. Or even half the time. But bringing green design to people's attention will encourage more small changes that will really add up.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Dura Supreme Cabinetry
When looking at green construction materials for your Kitchen Cabinetry, consider using sustainable materials like Lyptus. Lyptus is a unique, sustainable wood species that has become a popular option for many of our customers. It resembles Mahogany with its rich, red coloring but with more variation. It's also a great alternative to oak and cherry.

Lyptus is a hybrid of the Eucalyptus plant and is grown on non-tropical plantations in South America and is certified to Brazil's sustainable forestry standards. A notable environmental advantage is that trees grow to full maturity in 14-16 years (compared to 50+ years for most domestic hardwoods). Lyptus's fast growth rate ensures that supply stays high, and keeps costs low. As a plantation grown wood, use of Lyptus does not deplete old growth forests, which are regarded as valuable havens for biodiversity. The plantation environment also allows for precise control of soil chemistry, tree spacing, and other factors affecting growth, resulting in the highest quantity of quality wood from the smallest space.

The majority of hardwood sources for our cabinetry comes from domestic forests that are sustainably harvested and replanted for future generations. Wood is a valuable, natural resource that is sustainable and renewable.

Here are a few of our Lyptus kitchens...
Mix it Up - Rustic Country · More Info

West Indies Beauty · More Info

Is There Any Other Place You'd Rather Be? · More Info

Is There Any Other Place You'd Rather Be? · More Info
    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:59AM
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